SAVED BY BOARDING SCHOOL: My sincere take on the advantages of boarding school.
Age 13. Big decisions. Maybe not so much for me as I saw everything as an adventure, an open door to endless possibilities. But for my parents. I know realize it was one of the hardest decisions they had to make not only for their lives but also and mainly for mine.
Boarding school. At age 13, I was given the opportunity to receive a scholarship from the Spanish Golf Federation to move into the country’s best sport/school facility. The residence hosted the best athletes in the country of all sports (at the time only Olympic sports — but golf was integrated into the agenda because Spain was ranked incredibly high in Europe for their golf program). For the first time, I was going to have the opportunity to surround myself with other athletes, people that shared my same “struggle” on a daily basis. And I was going to be able to measure myself against them. At age 13 that is all I could think of. Those memories are vividly ingrained in my brain as if it were yesterday that I felt them.
I was always told I was very mature for my age. People say you can learn maturity, but I honestly believe you have to be born or raised in an environment that makes you independent and self-reliant. However, sports, makes you grow up faster. But they are not for everyone, and that is why I believe you must have the independence and the power of will since very little to be comfortable with being outcasted.
I felt different since a very young age. I knew I was different, I wasn’t dumb. I had golf as an extra curriculum, and it soon became my life. When golf took over the rest of my social activities as a child, it was getting harder to fit it. See, I am not complaining about my childhood. I loved my childhood. But you need to have a strong personality at that young age not to be influenced by masses. And boarding school helped a lot.
Before turning 14 I was already excelling in golf. I was very smart in school and I was always celebrated for my efficiency and eagerness to learn in class. I always loved studying and learning. I still have that in me. And it is something I will never get tired of suggesting kids to try and do: love school. Love learning. The discipline school gives you is equally as valuable as sports. Ideally you want to be able to do both at the same time, it is definitely one of the best experiences I have ever had in my entire life. And one that I will make sure my kids have the opportunity to live as well.
But I want to go back on the “fitting in” subject. Growing up in Cadiz, Spain I had it all, as I had nothing. I would not trade anything about my life in Cadiz, and I still don’t. I loved it there. It made me who I am now. But I needed more. I was the only one among my group of friends interested in sports, the rest played sports but only for fun. I, on the other hand, was serious about it. It is very important to mention that at the early age, we are still kids. And without the push of my mother, I would have never been where I am right now. We like what we do, but we cannot foresee the future. We are still too young and too “present-centered”, and it is completely understandable.
Back then, the better I was getting at golf, the more I needed to skip classes for training purposes and cut study halls short to make sure I had time for the gym. Weekends were a no-no for me because I most surely had tournaments or training sessions were scheduled up. I always missed birthdays and slumber parties. I had friends, lots of them actually. And I admit I had terrible fights with my parents for not allowing me to be a normal kid sometimes. And that is the struggle we all face during our teenage phase. And this is where, us as kids, have to be taken control of by our parents because we don’t know what is good for us. Slowly, I started to recognized the hardship of making your mark through teenage years when you are different, not succumbing into social pressures and sacrificing todays pleasures for my greater good of tomorrow.
[Here are some of the most important trophies I lifted during my years in the boarding school. From left to right: British Amateur, British Girls Amateur (under 16) and European Individual Championship. I am actually missing the Young Trophy Championship, which is the European Championship under 16]
But it all changed when the opportunity of boarding school came. At first I took it as my chance for freedom. But when I got there, I understood it was my chance for growth. I was no longer comparing my life with those of my friends, friends that were so special but yet, not athletes. Nothing against them, but their priorities and life choices were different to mine. And for the first time, I was able to live around people needing to make the same social sacrifices, endure the same physical grind and learning early on the importance of time-efficiency to be able to fit school work and gym after golf practice. (With this I am not saying that your kids shouldn’t have friends that are not into sports, please don’t take this out fo context.)
As I continue to magnify the benefits of boarding school I am forced to remind myself of my blessing for having a scholarship. Of course boarding school sounds great, and I am sure if it were that easy for all of us, all parents will do the same for their kids. I am not a parent, but when I have kids I will definitely would want my kids to grow around other athletes, and for them to devote their teenage years growing up around such positive, healthy and self-reliant environment. It is also important to highlight that being an athlete, developing that skill from an early age does not make you better than those who dont become athletes or play sports (I am not trying to raise that comparison). There are also boarding schools for academic purposes, I just don’t know about them because my calling was sports not academics! LOL. Bottom line is that I understand the economic sacrifice it can be as a parent, to try and give your kids that opportunity but without qualifying for a scholarship. Will that be something you think about for your kids? I have read that most of the times and in most of the situations I have encountered, young kids that enroll in paid tuitions for sport boarding school end up acquiring a scholarship for college. So in a way they call it as if you might be investing for high school and then getting free collage for your kids. Who knows… I can see how this kind of environment will make the kid grow not only as an athlete but as a person. When I think about my situation, I think about how much competitive I became. I was always being tested among my friends in school and at the golf course, and with it I understood the importance of outgrowing my fellow competitors on practice hours if I wanted to be better than them. And this is the natural and healthy competitive mindset I would love for all the younger generations to start acquiring. The lifestyle in boarding school engrained in me a very healthy yet disciplined practice schedule responsibility. I was able to learn how to manage my time efficiency to make sure I was capable to fit school, golf and gym in my every days. I also had the resources of nutritionists and mental coaches to guide me through the process. And most importantly for me was the company of people I had around me. Not only was I surrounded by golfer, but by many other athletes. I learned so much about sport integrity and sacrifices. Because it is very easy to be weak one day and complain about your life or situation, but then you meet a gymnast in class and listen to their stories, their practice schedule and their strict diet and curfew times, you then start appreciating your life and the opportunity ahead of you more.
But I would love to hear about your thoughts in this. It is something I am very passionate about and something I might want to be part of in my near future. Not only do I want to grow the game of golf, but I want the younger generation to be prepared as better athletes. And this is a passion I have developed over the years. It comes from personal struggles and finding the answers to them. I wish I can somehow recommend and guide younger generations and parents one day. Not only for their kids to be better golfers, but better athletes. I want them to have the same opportunities I had and take way more advantage of the resources out there to grow mentally, physically and technically. Maybe more that I ever did in my past.
In my next blog I think I want to talk a little bit more about this. I want to touch on some of the same questions I receive weekly from you guys. To give you guys an example, the ones that resonate with me are the following: how did I get a scholarship for USC being from a remote town in south of Spain? How can I make my kid enjoy golf at an early age? My kids don’t seem to stick with golf and prefer to hang out with their friends, how can I make them understand the value of hoping to be a student-athlete in a college in the US? I want to introduce my kid to golf, how did your parents do it?
Will this be something you might want me to address in my future blog? Let me know please, and also let me know if there are some other questions you might have about boarding school. I want to know if paid boarding School will be something you might find interesting for your kids, what will be some of the obstacles to make you decide whenever or not enroll your kids in boarding school. Will it be economic reasons or personal reasons? Do you think your kid might not be mature enough to attend a boarding school at that young age? Do you think they will understand their opportunity? Will they make the best out of it? I am listening! Let me know.